Historic buildings being restored in downtown Gulfport

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Historic buildings in downtown Gulfport are getting some much needed attention. Restoration work is underway or about to begin on several landmark structures.

The construction work is a combination of the facade grant program and a significant investment by private developers.

A company called MRA, Mississippi Re-Development Alliance, is restoring several landmark buildings in the heart of downtown.

"I think the look is there from the olden times, but it's a very modern office in its function," said developer Michael Albritton, who is already leasing space in the newly restored Toggery Building.

Restoration to the building includes preserving historic touches like wooden ceilings and old brick walls.

"I have a great personal as well as business attachment to these buildings. I love the idea of restoring them to their former grandeur. Even before Katrina, they had laid derelict for a long time," said Albritton.

The century old Hewes building is next on MRA's restoration plans. Workers are already busy giving the interior a total makeover.

"We have pictures of how it was before and we try to duplicate that as much as possible. We have to get a lot of millwork cut to match. And we try to keep most everything we can original," said contractor Buddy Gill.

A black and white picture of a once vibrant downtown hangs in the MRA office and provides inspiration for the ongoing restoration work.

"I guess these buildings, I think the one next door has been sitting for upwards of 20 something years before MRA came in and started re-doing it. So, I think it's great for the area and it's great for me being a local contractor here," says Gill.

Gulfport's facade grant program is also giving old buildings a welcome makeover. Some 60 projects are now underway.

Contractor Mark Ellis is involved in 35 facade grant projects. He says facelifts to these historic buildings should attract plenty of interest and draw more people downtown.

Clayton Pagels is doing the stucco work on several facade projects.

"I think it's great. It gives us an opportunity to do some of the work the old style. Doing it the same way it was done in the old days," said Pagels.

Downtown Gulfport was a popular location back then and those investing here are confident it can be again.

Gulfport's facade grant program is administered through the Mississippi Development Authority. It's part of the Katrina recovery funding and provides grants ranging from $20,000 to $100,000.